| Summary

America: What Went Wrong? The Crisis Deepens

"America: What Went Wrong? The Crisis Deepens is required reading to understand our current health and economic crisis. As U.S. society reels from the Covid-19 pandemic, we must ask how we became so vulnerable, fragile and ill-prepared? Barlett and Steele expose the four decades of tax shifting, public disinvestment, and corporate plunder that weakened the body politic, the preexisting condition for disaster." – CHUCK COLLINS, Institute for Policy Studies, and author of Born on Third Base

"The first edition of America: What Went Wrong? started our national conversation about inequality. Don Barlett and Jim Steele, the best investigative reporting team of all time, showed in plain English how instead of investing to grow our economy, Wall Street financial engineers made quick profits by dismantling successful enterprises, their gain causing our enduring pain. Events since then panned out pretty much as any reader would have expected. Now 28 years later Barlett and Steele are back with a new version of their #1 New York Times bestseller to warn us about the awful economic future they see ahead unless we wise up and demand changes in the government rule book that benefits the few at the expense of the many." – DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author

"This groundbreaking book is still the bedrock diagnosis of American inequality. The illuminating and well-documented updates show exactly how prescient Barlett and Steele were when they first warned that deliberate policies were imperiling the American dream of middle-class prosperity. An infuriating but immensely helpful primer on how America can get back on track to serve the great majority of its people." – DIANA HENRIQUES, author of the New York Times bestseller The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust and A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History

"It has been almost forty years since Ronald Reagan, taking the nation's top office, famously declared, ‘government is the problem,’ and thus began the great experiment in glorifying private excess over public need. The results are in. We now live in the most extreme period of income inequality in our history, with millions earning a barely livable wage, while the richest just get richer. It wasn't just predictable, it was conclusively predicted by Barlett and Steele thirty years ago. This updated volume not only shows what has happened, it simply and clearly explains why. Let's hope today more are ready to listen." – MARK BOWDEN, author, Black Hawk Down

"The 1992 edition of America: What Went Wrong? was one of the most important works of journalism in the 20th century. This updated edition is even more compelling, as it lays bare our nation’s shameful drift over the past three decades to an even more inequitable, unfair and unjust society. Barlett and Steele tell us not only what went wrong, but what’s still going wrong and how only we, the citizenry, can fix it. Let’s hope that this time around, the public and our elected representatives do a better job of listening and responding." – DAVID BOARDMAN, Dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple University

"The powerful new book, America: What Went Wrong? The Crisis Deepens, by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, is even more significant and relevant today than it was in 1992 when it was first published. The brilliant, two-time Pulitzer Prize winners have released a terrific, ‘that was then, this is now’ updated throughout edition of their muckraking classic about inequality in America. And it is an absolute MUST read!" – CHARLES LEWIS, Founder, The Center for Public Integrity

"This brilliant book is essential reading for anyone seeking the true story of how America works—or doesn’t. Barlett and Steele—the preeminent investigative reporters of their generation—lay out in meticulous detail how special interests continue to loot the American middle class, with disastrous results. They use up-to-the-minute data and compelling human stories to show how the average American has ended up far worse off than even the authors could have predicted three decades years ago, when they first began their exploration of how special interests with deep pockets and friends in Washington fueled inequality in America. The book unfolds as a gripping economic detective story, an engrossing tale of real people beat by the system that will leave you angry and yearning for change." – JOE STEPHENS, Founding Director of the Program in Journalism, Princeton University

"The achievement of Barlett and Steele in America: What went wrong? can hardly be overstated. I know of no other investigative report that displays a comparable ambition—nothing less than to document the drivers and effects of class warfare (to call it out by name) in the United States. The breadth and depth of the research and the potent clarity of the writing, moving from rending individual stories to crystalline exposition of arcane tax laws, raise the benchmarks for journalism. In this update, Barlett and Steele demonstrate that the trends they mapped in the early ’90s have deepened, ruining the lives and futures of the American middle class. The book can be read as an indictment of financiers who looted the country and politicians who paved their path, but its ultimate target is a system, and systems can be changed, as the authors set out in their new epilogue. This book is not only unique, it’s a masterpiece." – MARK LEE HUNTER, author, Story-Based Inquiry: A Manual for Investigative Journalists

"This important and timely update of a classic investigative work once again details the terrible—and increasing—inequities of the U.S. economic and legal system that bestows numerous favors on the rich while trampling the wages, benefits and hopes of middle-class citizens. America: What Went Wrong? The Crisis Deepens also serves as an exemplary textbook for aspiring young journalists who wish to expose the corrupt and abusive systems contributing to this ongoing crisis." – BRANT HOUSTON, Professor and Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

"Reading this brilliant book on the long slow death of the American dream will give you strength to fight for its resurrection." – TIM WEINER, Pulitzer Prize-winner author of Legacy of Ashes and The Folly and the Glory